There are fewer and fewer places on our planet that are free from human intrusion. Popular national parks are packed with tourists in the summer. The sound of honking horns and car alarms drowns out bird calls and howling wolves. But there are places so remote that human noise is practically nonexistent. This isn’t to say these places are silent. In fact, nature can be loud when left (relatively) undisturbed. Click through to check out some of your planet’s quietest places.
1. Samboja Lestari, Borneo
For decades, the tropical rain forests of the world’s third largest island were logged at an alarming rate. In the town of Samboja, deforestation, climate change, floods, droughts and fires ravaged this precious ecosystem — it was so bad, that the flora and fauna native to the area were on the brink of extinction. That is until, in 2001, when the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation began buying up land in the area and began the process of returning it to its natural state. Though the forest has not been fully restored, it is one of the best places on earth to hear the howl of the native orangutans far away from the noise of logging and farming.
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2. Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
This 21,000 square mile game reserve, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is home to exactly zero permanent human settlements. The Tanzanian government strictly controls all human activity in the reserve, so almost all of the noise that you’ll hear comes strictly from the animals. Elephants, crocodiles, hippopotami, and zebras, just to name a few. On a trip to the area, perhaps the loudest sound you’ll hear is the roar of a lion!
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3. The Hoh Valley, Washington
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is home to some of the most undeveloped national park land in the United States. The picturesque beauty of this virgin temperate rain forest, the largest of its kind in North America, is also considered to be the quietest place in the United States. Is it any wonder, then, that it is also one of the largest areas in the continental United States without roads?!
4. Kronostky Nature Reserve, Russia
Thousands of acres protected land and not a road in site. This nature preserve is located in remote Far Eastern Russia — closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow. Save from the 3,000 tourists allowed into the park for 5 hours at a time via a pricey helicopter ride, only scientists are allowed to explore this vast, unique landscape. It’s home to the country’s only geyser basin and Eurasia’s highest active volcano. Though you won’t hear much in the way of human activity, the park is home to incredible animals, including some of the largest brown bears on the planet.
5. The Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa
The vast expanse, over 350,000 square miles, of the Kalahari desert crosses into a whopping six different Southern African nations. But it’s home to very, very few people — in an area that’s considerably larger than the state of Texas, there are only 20,000 people. As one of the most remote places on earth, the Kalahari Desert is also one of the quietest. Better to enjoy the endemic animals like meerkats and the Kalahari lion, of course!
6. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
You’d be hard-pressed to find a place more remote — and more difficult to get to — than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in far northeastern Alaska. Nearly twice the size of Massachusetts, there are no roads within or leading to the refuge. Most visitors — all 1,500 of them each year — arrive by aircraft. Though there are a handful of tiny villages, most of the noise comes from the area’s vibrant wildlife: polar bears, caribou, and wolves, just to name a few.
7. Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka
Deforestation has devastated many of the world’s most incredible ecosystems — but not this one. Its remote location means that the dense forest is virgin, and home to an impressive array of endemic wildlife. Limited human activity in the area means that you’re far, far more likely to hear the chorus of tropical birds than the sounds of traffic or construction.
8. The Science Lab: the (Artificially) Quietest Place on Earth
There is silence and then there’s silence. This Minnesota-based laboratory blocks out a whopping 99.99% of all sound. It’s so quiet that you have to sit down, because the sounds you make when you’re moving are blocked out and make it difficult to balance. The longer you’re in there, though, the more you can hear your body’s internal workings: your heart beating, your stomach gurgling, maybe even the sound of your lungs. As cool as that sounds, visitors to this anechoic chamber find it deeply unsettling. In fact, the longest anyone has ever lasted in the chamber was 45 minutes. Your brain begins to hallucinate sounds afteer some time in such utter silence.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons